Research Summary

The developing brain and the emergence of behavior a case for neuromodulation

Of the many complex tasks that our brains do in our daily lives, one probably pays little attention to the task of moving from one place to another. Yet, the generation of movement involves neural circuitry distributed within our nervous systems and millions of computations occurring within these circuits. How the nervous system plans, commands and executes locomotion is only poorly understood.

Locomotion develops quite early in life as a mechanism to ensure the survival of young animals. A further question then is how an immature nervous system generates coordinated movement using a constantly evolving underlying circuitry. In my lab, I am using the zebrafish as a model system to understand how locomotion is generated by immature and mature neural circuitry.

Swimming in zebrafish is generated by circuits located in the spinal cord which are in turn activated by signals from the brain. The bulk of these signals are carried by descending projections from the reticulospinal neurons of the hindbrain. Using opto-genetic tools and a combination of whole-cell patch clamp recordings, suction electrode recordings and calcium imaging, we will tease out how signaling in the reticulospinal network leads to the initiation of swimming at different stages of life.

Figure Legend: Motoneurons in a 3 day zebrafish larva expressing EGFP under the control of Islet promoter